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Title:  Haiti Human Rights Practices, 1995  
Author:  U.S. Department of State   
Date:  March 1996   
 
 
 
 
                                  HAITI 
 
 
For the first full year in its history, Haiti was governed by a 
democratically elected President.  The Government brought an end to the 
massive, state-sanctioned human rights violations which had 
characterized the preceding 3 years.  Although the 1991 coup d'etat 
which ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide after only 7 months in 
office continued to affect the country's institutions even after his 
return, the Government--assisted by the international community--made 
significant progress in addressing many of the nation's most glaring 
systemic and institutional needs. 
 
Haiti's 1987 Constitution provides for a parliamentary democracy, but 
the Government was unable to meet the constitutionally mandated schedule 
for legislative elections a month after Aristide's return.  The 
Government thus operated without its legislative branch for much of the 
year.  Nonetheless, the country was eventually able to hold peaceful 
elections for all of the nearly 2,100 parliamentary and local offices 
nationwide.  President Aristide convoked the new National Assembly in 
October.  A presidential election was held on December 17, despite 
pressure from some popular organizations and influential individuals for 
Aristide (who was constitutionally barred from seeking a second 
consecutive term) to stay in office to "recover" his 3 years of exile.  
In the end, Rene Preval, the candidate of the Lavalas platform defeated 
his 13 opponents with 88 percent of the vote.  Preval took office on the 
constitutionally mandated date of February 7, 1996.  The period of 
crisis from 1991-94 also affected the judicial system, theoretically 
independent, but weak and corrupt after decades of governmental 
interference under the Duvaliers and subsequent governments.  President 
Aristide and his Government began the task of rebuilding the justice 
system. 
 
The U.S.-led Multinational Force (MNF), which had entered Haiti 
peacefully in September 1994 under the authority of the United Nations 
Security Council, was replaced in March by the U.N. Mission in Haiti 
(UNMIH).  Under its mandate, UNMIH's approximately 6,000 peacekeeping 
troops and 900 civilian police were responsible for assisting the 
Government to maintain a secure and stable environment. 
 
Haiti continued its transition towards a constitutionally mandated 
national police force under civilian control, the Police Nationale 
d'Haiti (PNH).  In revoking the commissions of the majority of members 
of the Haitian Armed Forces (FAd'H) at the beginning of 1995, President 
Aristide left in place those serving as part of the interim police.  The 
newly established police academy, charged with training the civilian 
police, enrolled its first class in January.  The Ministry of Justice 
deployed these cadets at the beginning of June, and classes of cadets 
graduated each month thereafter, replacing members of the interim police 
on a one-for-one basis.  In December the Government issued a decree 
incorporating into the PNH the remaining members of the interim police, 
some 1,500 persons including both former FAd'H personnel as well as 
interim police members who had been recruited from among Haitian 
migrants being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo, Cuba.  A small 
number of the ex-FAd'H personnel were credibly implicated in human 
rights abuses.  There were some incidents of arbitrary arrest and 
beating, as well as the killing of several suspects, by the interim 
police.  The PNH gained a greater level of public confidence than the 
interim police had, but were often inclined to use excessive force, 
resulting in the beating and killing of several suspects.  The 
authorities are investigating these incidents.  Nonetheless, the PNH 
bears little resemblance to the FAd'H, long an instrument of repression 
and violence. 
 
In September the UN/OAS International Civilian Mission (ICM) cited the 
"clear determination of the Government to improve the quality and 
performance of judicial officials, and to supervise the conduct of the 
new security agents," which had already resulted in "a dramatic decrease 
in the number of complaints."  There is much room for improvement, 
however, as the PNH continues to suffer from equipment problems, poor 
leadership, and political interference.  President Aristide wanted the 
new Parliament to abolish the army, a remnant of which still exists in 
compliance with a constitutional mandate, but provisions do not allow 
amendment of the Constitution until the end of Parliament's 4-year term. 
 
Haiti is an extremely poor country.  It has a market-based economy with 
state enterprises controlling some sectors, such as telecommunications 
and energy.  Two-thirds of the work force are employed in the 
agricultural sector, most in subsistence production.  Although less than 
1 percent of the work force is in the assembly sector, it is a major 
source of export revenue and added about 10,000 jobs in the last year.  
The country exports mangos, coffee, and sisal as well.  Per capita gross 
domestic product increased 5 to 6 percent during 1995, but stands at 
only $260 annually.  Most of the population subsists on substantially 
less than this, remaining in extreme poverty.  Much of the country's 
wealth is still concentrated in the hands of a tiny, traditional elite. 
 
Haiti's human rights climate improved dramatically.  The Aristide 
Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, in 
stark contrast to the record of the military regime removed from power 
in 1994.  In the past, widespread abuses such as judicial corruption, 
arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention of suspects, and excessive use of 
force by the authorities, punctuated by short, dramatic periods of 
extrajudicial killings and other violent attacks with clear political 
motives, were common.  The Aristide Government took great strides 
towards breaking this pattern, and such practices have become the object 
of sweeping Government reform efforts, although abuses still occur 
occasionally. 
 
Most troubling was the occurrence of more than 20 execution- 
style killings in which theft was apparently not a motive.  Information 
including that developed by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation 
(FBI) in the investigation of one of these cases, the March 28 killing 
of Mireille Durocher Bertin, suggests that this killing was linked to 
several others and that persons associated with the Government may have 
been implicated in them.  Near the end of the year, the Government 
established a Special Investigative Unit (SIU) comprising PNH 
investigators working under the direction of several magistrates 
to look into notorious homicides dating back to the mid-1980's. 
Little progress on other investigations had been made. 
 
The moribund judicial system was incapable of processing detainees in 
compliance with the law, and a large proportion of crimes, including 
many which might have been politically motivated, remained unresolved.  
Improper arrests and warrantless searches, a clogged judicial docket, 
poor prison conditions, and vigilante activity condoned by the 
authorities also contributed to ongoing human rights violations.  
Societal discrimination against women and abuse of children are 
problems, most notably the widespread practice of rural families sending 
young children to the larger cities to work as unpaid domestics. 
 
The Government made limited headway in investigating the murders of pro-
Aristide activists and others which took place during the coup period.  
The President created the independent Presidential Commission of Truth 
and Justice to investigate and determine the extent of human rights 
abuses during the tenure of the de facto regime, but the Commission's 
mandate excluded scrutiny of human rights abuses which took place during 
Aristide's 7 months in office in 1991.  The President also established a 
committee in the Ministry of Justice to address several of the high 
profile killings of the same period, again, excluding examination of his 
own earlier tenure. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
Political and extrajudicial killings by the authorities or security 
forces dropped dramatically with the return of the legitimate Government 
and its decision to dismantle virtually the entire pre-existing security 
structure.  Nevertheless, some people associated with the Government 
were implicated in execution-style killings.  There were a number of 
cases in which the interim police or PNH killed suspects, over 100 
instances of mob justice resulting in death, and several cases of 
suspected executions by vigilante organizations, some of which appear to 
have been inspired by statements of Aristide.  The Government opened 
investigations into several high profile assassinations which took place 
during the coup period but by year's end had not launched adequate 
investigations into the execution-style killings which occurred in 1995. 
 
In the last week of December 1994, three men were killed when military 
officers fired on dismissed FAd'H members who were rioting near the 
general headquarters.  There were several reports of suspects killed by 
the interim police, and in at least three cases, by the PNH.  The 
interim police and PNH contend that the suspects were killed while 
attempting to escape.  The PNH's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) 
opened investigations into both these and other lesser PNH incidents.  
By year's end, the OIG had taken 12 disciplinary actions; 20 other 
investigations remained pending. 
 
With a generally ineffective interim police, a fledgling national 
police, and a national focus on grassroots organizations, vigilante 
brigades made a renewed appearance.  The ICM expressed concern that an 
Aristide call in February for "community vigilance" might have been 
misinterpreted by some Haitians to mean they could take the law into 
their own hands.  Although most of these served as neighborhood defense 
mechanisms, observers and international forces reported instances where 
they suspected vigilante groups were responsible for killings.  In 
February a group of local gang members attacked the newly installed 
interim police contingent in Limbe and killed a lieutenant.  Later in 
the year, however, vigilante groups turned suspects over to the 
authorities. 
 
There was no evidence of national leadership of vigilante brigades, 
which were localized phenomena, but such organizations 
appeared in all nine provinces.  Killings also resulted when mobs 
angered by a crime attacked the perpetrator immediately.  For example, 
crowds in Port-au-Prince killed a man who had stabbed a woman in a taxi 
and two juveniles who had snatched a purse.  Provincial citizens killed 
two men in September on suspicion of having used voodoo to cause the 
death of a newly elected deputy (the ICM believes the man died of AIDS).  
In November at least seven people were killed in violent clashes after 
Aristide, in an emotionally charged eulogy, encouraged citizens to 
assist the police in disarming perceived opponents of the Government. 
 
In addition to incidents of summary justice and murders committed in 
connection with other crimes, there was a series of execution-style 
murders, about 20 according to an ICM press release in September, in 
which victims were either former members of the FAd'H (including a 
retired general and two retired colonels), attaches, members of the 
Revolutionary Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH--a 
notorious paramilitary organization during the 1993-94 period), persons 
connected to the petroleum or automotive industry, or persons whose 
affiliations were unknown.  In these cases, robbery was apparently not 
the motive. 
 
One of the victims was a well-known attorney and former public 
prosecutor, Mireille Durocher Bertin, who had been spokesperson for the 
former military regime.  President Aristide had requested the FBI to 
investigate Bertin's murder, but government officials impeded the 
operation by failing to cooperate fully with the FBI.  The FBI 
investigation produced evidence linking the Bertin case to several other 
killings, as well as information suggesting that government security 
officials may have been implicated in some of these deaths. 
 
Jean Hubert Feuille, a pro-Aristide member of Parliament and cousin of 
the President, was killed in a November shooting.  A substantial sum of 
money was taken by the perpetrators, and theft may have been the 
motivation.  Feuille's colleague, a parliamentarian from the same party, 
survived the attack and claimed publicly that it was the work of unnamed 
presidential advisers allegedly angered that he was attempting to expose 
their corruption. 
 
In October, in response to domestic and international pressure to solve 
the recent execution-style killings, the Government announced the 
creation of the SIU to investigate certain high profile killings which 
had taken place since the mid-1980s.  The SIU, which comprises a group 
of PNH investigators under the direction of a magistrate, was tasked 
with the investigation of over 70 such cases, the majority of which 
occurred during the period of military rule following President 
Aristide's overthrow in September 1991. 
 
President Aristide regularly and emphatically stressed the need for both 
reconciliation and justice following the repression and human rights 
trauma of the prior 3 years.  To this end, he created a Presidential 
Commission of Truth and Justice and a special lawyers' committee to 
investigate four high profile murders during the coup period:  those of 
Antoine Izmery, Guy Malary, Jean Marie Vincent, and Claudy Musseau. 
 
The Government began investigations into the killings during the coup 
period of these four well-known Aristide supporters.  One suspect was 
tried and convicted in the case of the assassination of Antoine Izmery.  
Also in the Izmery murder, a court found guilty in absentia several 
members and supporters of the Cedras regime, including former chief of 
police Michel Francois, the former captain of the police investigative 
service, known for its brutality, and the second in command of FRAPH.  
However, the cases of Guy Malary, Jean Marie Vincent, and Claudy Musseau 
remain unsolved.  Haitian authorities requested the deportation of 
Emmanuel Constant, the founder of FRAPH, who had escaped to the United 
States in December 1994.  Constant appealed the initial deportation 
order entered against him.  At the end of the year, he remained in U.S. 
custody. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The 1987 Constitution prohibits unnecessary force or restraint, 
psychological pressure, or physical brutality.  After years of 
systematic abuse under prior regimes, the legitimate authorities 
largely respected these constitutional protections in 1995.  There were 
several reports of police beating suspects or detainees.  In at least 
one case, a local "casec" (rural section council member) allegedly 
authorized the plaintiff to beat the defendant.  In an incident in June, 
prison guards at Fort National beat approximately 12 juveniles after the 
young men attacked a guard.  However, there were no reports of the use 
of rape as a means of torture and intimidation, a practice which was 
widely reported under the military regime. 
 
Records of the Human Rights Fund, a U.S. Government project to assist 
victims of human rights abuses, highlight the vast improvement in 
treatment by authorities:  in the 3 months before President Aristide's 
return, it assisted 49 acute trauma victims, provided over 3,000 medical 
consultations, and gave psychological counseling to nearly 100 people.  
In early 1995, the relief portion of the fund was terminated due to a 
lack of new cases. 
 
Prisoners and detainees, held in overcrowded and inadequate facilities, 
continued to suffer from a lack of the most basic hygiene facilities as 
well as from inadequate food and health care, including necessary 
medical treatment.  Prisoners and detainees had to rely on family or 
friends for food and medicine.  At the National Penitentiary in Port-au-
Prince, nine prisoners died from malnutrition in a 2-week period at the 
end of the year. 
 
The Government, with the assistance of the international community, 
began to address prison inadequacies.  The President implemented 
legislation creating the National Penitentiary Administration (APENA), 
Haiti's first civilian prison administration.  APENA, which includes a 
corps of prison guards, has posted agents at 13 of the country's 15 
prisons, including at least 1 female prison guard at each facility to 
address the needs of female prisoners.  To accommodate women and 
juveniles previously held in close quarters with the adult male 
prisoners in the National Penitentiary, the Ministry of Justice 
refurbished a former military facility in Port-au-Prince 
to serve as a prison for them.  The Government, with help from the 
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other donors, made 
some initial efforts to refurbish the National Penitentiary, which 
housed approximately 60 percent of the prison population, by restoring 
some burned-out cell blocks, improving kitchen facilities, reopening 
previously unusable latrines and showers, and restoring prisoner access 
to unused courtyard space.  Nonetheless, overcrowding at the National 
Penitentiary had become an acute problem by the end of the year. 
 
Authorities permit the ICRC, the Haitian Red Cross, the ICM, and other 
human rights groups to enter prisons, monitor conditions, and assist 
prisoners with medical care, food, and legal aid. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Constitution stipulates that a person may be arrested only if 
apprehended during the commission of a crime, or if a judicial warrant 
has been issued.  The authorities must bring the detainee before a judge 
within 48 hours of arrest. 
 
There were no reported cases of the previously common practice of secret 
detention.  The number of arbitrary arrests decreased significantly.  
Some occurred in connection with land disputes in Artibonite province.  
In another instance, a justice of the peace arrested the brother of 
someone accused of wounding a third party, when the alleged culprit went 
into hiding.  There were also some cases in which authorities made 
arrests based on flawed warrants, including illegal group warrants and 
those based on verbal denunciations; or on documents which were 
essentially subpoenas, not arrest warrants.  Some arrests were also made 
in the presence of a justice of the peace without a warrant, which is 
legally insufficient.  For example, in early March, the Minister of 
Justice named a new state prosecutor for Port-au-Prince, who promptly 
issued a warrant for 12 people on the grounds of plotting against the 
Government.  The interim police subsequently arrested two men listed, 
Dieumaitre Lucas and Patrick Bastien, and authorities released the men 
only after holding them illegally for 6 months.  Police detained a 
prominent opposition politician, Duly Brutus, in July, using a warrant 
which gave authority only to bring him in for questioning.  Police also 
arrested Carl Denis, a well-known anti-Aristide activist, based on a 
denunciation by an organization of former soldiers.  Colonel (ret.) 
Christophe Dardompre was arrested in November without a warrant; he 
remained in detention at the end of the year even though a judge had 
ordered his release. 
 
At the beginning of 1995, detainees who had never seen a judge or whose 
cases stagnated in the legal system crowded the prisons, particularly 
the National Penitentiary.  The Ministry of Justice made a sincere 
effort to correct this failure, assigning judges to "triage" the cases, 
and releasing those who had already served more time in detention than 
they would have served if sentenced for the crime in question.  In the 
absence of any system of public defenders, the Ministry also established 
a project by which law students assisted detainees to prepare their 
cases.  During the first month of the triage program (August), 
participants reviewed the cases of 559 detainees, resulting in 7 being 
brought to trial and convicted, and 85 being freed by justices of the 
peace.  Nevertheless, an overburdened, often corrupt, and inadequate 
judicial system regularly detained suspects well beyond the 48 hours 
permitted for arraignment.  Cases bound over to higher courts also 
continued to languish.  In September 87 percent of the inmates in the 
National Penitentiary were in pretrial detention. 
 
The Constitution prohibits involuntary exile of citizens.  While some 
have left the country voluntarily for personal or political reasons, the 
Government did not make use of exile as punishment.  Most senior FAd'H 
officers chose voluntary exile, many departing due to fear for their 
safety after several former officers were murdered.  In November former 
military strongman Prosper Avril took asylum in the Colombian Embassy 
after the police illegally raided his home and arrested his daughter and 
son-in-law; at the end of the year, the Government had not allowed Avril 
safe passage out of the country. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the right to 
a fair public trial.  However, the former is virtually nonexistent, and 
the latter is widely abridged.  Two hundred years of rampant corruption 
and governmental neglect have left the judicial system poorly organized 
and virtually moribund.  Under these circumstances, citizens often do 
not bring criminal cases to the police or judicial authorities, and most 
crimes go unprosecuted. 
 
The Constitution vests judicial power in a supreme court, courts of 
appeal, courts of first instance and courts of peace.  Court proceedings 
are generally public but may take place in closed session in the 
interest of public order.  In cases of political offenses or offenses 
involving the press, sentences must be delivered in open session.  
Examining magistrates known as juges d'instruction try cases in the 
courts of first instance.  Commissaires or public prosecutors supervise 
the Judicial Police, which investigate crimes, gather evidence, and 
deliver suspects to the courts. 
 
Under Haiti's criminal justice system, all legal proceedings begin with 
either an official inquiry by a member of the Judicial Police or with a 
recorded denunciation known as a proces verbal.  A legal arrest may 
follow a police report accompanied by a proces verbal; a citizen's 
complaint, whether or not accompanied by a proces verbal; or when a 
perpetrator is caught in a criminal act. 
 
The Government has acknowledged that judicial reform is critical, and 
has worked with the international community to address some of the 
problems plaguing the system, including understaffing, untrained and 
incompetent staff, and inadequate compensation.  In July the Ministry of 
Justice opened the constitutionally mandated magistrates' school.  
During its first 3 months, the school put over 100 judges and 
prosecutors through intensive 2-week training courses, and will continue 
to focus on short and long term training for justices of the peace and 
trial judges.  Some human rights organizations complain, however, that 
corrupt judges from the coup period continue on the bench and that many 
are irredeemable. 
 
The Constitution expressly denies police and judicial authorities the 
right to interrogate persons charged with a crime unless the suspect has 
legal counsel present or waives this right.  Nevertheless, not all 
accused can afford counsel and the law does not require that the 
Government provide legal representation; interrogation without counsel 
present continues to occur frequently.  Under the Code of Criminal 
Procedure, responsibility to investigate crimes is unclear and authority 
to prosecute is divided among police, prosecutors, and investigating 
magistrates.  The Code stipulates two criminal court sessions per year, 
each lasting 2 weeks, to try all major crimes requiring a jury trial.  
Failure to reform this aspect of the Code has contributed to a huge 
backlog of cases inherited from years past, with some detainees having 
waited years in pretrial detention for a court date.  In addition, for 
the last several years, the Ministry of Justice held only one assize in 
Port-au-Prince, and there were districts in which it held no assize at 
all.  However, there were some improvements, as assizes took place in 
several districts, and the Minister of Justice committed himself to a 
second session in Port-au-Prince in December.  During its August 
session, the assizes in Port-au-Prince ruled on 12 cases, while those in 
Les Cayes handed down decisions in 10.  If the accused is ultimately 
tried and found innocent, he has no recourse against the Government for 
time already served. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The Constitution prohibits such practices, and government authorities 
generally respected these prohibitions.  In November, however, the 
Government ordered the police to carry out a number of warrantless 
searches of private residences as part of an effort to search for 
weapons.  Most of these searches took place in middle-class and wealthy 
neighborhoods and more frequently in the cities than in rural areas. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press, and the 
Government generally respects these rights in practice. 
The press energetically exercised this freedom, with the print media 
often openly critical of the Government (from both the left and the 
right ends of the political spectrum).  There are two independent 
dailies in Port-au-Prince, as well as a journal published by Tilegliz, a 
Catholic group associated with liberation theology.  Foreign-based pro- 
and anti-Aristide newspapers circulate in Haiti as well.  All freely 
published reports on negative reactions by Haitians and others on the 
elections, security, violence, the efforts to abolish the army, the 
economy, and other political issues.  Foreign journalists circulated 
throughout the country without hindrance.  There were no reports of 
censorship, nor did there appear to be self-censorship, except in the 
case of an electoral debate which the government television station 
edited, in contravention of the agreement between its organizer, the 
National Democratic Institute, and the station.  The station 
subsequently rebroadcast the debate in its entirety. 
 
With an illiteracy rate of approximately 80 percent, broadcast media, 
especially Creole-language radio, have unusual importance.  Thirty-two 
radio stations operate in Port-au-Prince, 17 of which offer news 
programming.  There is one government-owned radio and television 
station.  These totals represent a significant increase in the number of 
stations that were operating during the 1991-94 period.  Broadcast media 
tended to be neutral or supportive of the Government. 
 
There was a handful of confrontations between authorities and the media.  
In March presidential security agents manhandled journalists trying to 
film the agents arresting and allegedly beating a man who had climbed 
the wall of the National Palace.  Thirty journalists subsequently 
boycotted coverage of events at the Palace, until the President met with 
them to hear their concerns.  In June authorities in Les Cayes closed a 
local radio station after it broadcast a freewheeling political 
discussion.  They based their action on the fact that its license was 
still pending; the journalists who moderated the event were summoned for 
questioning, but were not detained.  The station was subsequently 
allowed to resume broadcasting.  In August the Minister of Information 
closed the daily government newspaper L'Union for "renovation," after 
public disagreements with the editor. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
Authorities respected the constitutional rights of freedom of assembly 
and association, after years of restriction.  Political parties across 
the spectrum were able to meet, recruit members and candidates, and hold 
election rallies for their partisans.  Nongovernmental organizations and 
grassroots and popular groups, many of which had had to suspend their 
activities under threat from the military regime and its agents or go 
underground, emerged from hiding and resumed their activities.  New 
organizations also formed, including one dedicated to the rights of 
former soldiers. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for the right to practice all religions and 
faiths, provided that practice does not disturb law and order.  
President Aristide met officially not only with Catholic religious 
officials but with Protestants and Vauduisants (adherents of vaudoun or 
voodoo, a mix of African religions and Catholicism) as well.  There are 
currently no government restrictions on missionary activities, 
affiliation with overseas coreligionists, or religious instruction or 
publishing. 
 
In contrast to numerous incidents during the previous regime, there were 
no reports of attacks against religious figures. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
There are no legal restrictions on the movement of citizens within the 
country. 
 
An unknown number of undocumented migrants put to sea seeking better 
economic opportunities in other countries.  The U.S. Coast Guard 
interdicted and returned approximately 1,800.  Hundreds of others 
succeeded in landing illegally in the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos 
Islands, or Florida, while several drowned.  The Government created a 
National Migration Office to assist repatriates.  It also reached an 
agreement with the Bahamas for repatriating Haitians who lacked legal 
status there. 
 
There have been no cases of asylum seekers or refugees in Haiti, and, 
accordingly, the Government has not formulated a policy to deal with the 
question of refugees. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change their Government 
 
The Constitution provides for regular elections for local and 
parliamentary offices and for the presidency.  Legislative elections 
scheduled for November 1994, but delayed because President Aristide did 
not return until October of that year, took place over three rounds in 
June, August, and September.  The Presidential election scheduled under 
the Constitution for the end of November was held successfully on 
December 17. 
 
The terms of all members of the 83-member Chamber of Deputies, the lower 
house of the Parliament, and of two-thirds of the 27-member Senate, 
expired on February 4, as did the mandates of all local government 
officials.  The Parliament ended its deliberations on that date, 
resulting in a legislative void.  President Aristide, however, appointed 
mayors throughout the country to manage local government.  Most of these 
were incumbents, but critics of the President accused him of replacing 
members of opposition political parties with his own adherents. 
 
A provisional electoral council (CEP), created by a political compromise 
in late 1994, administered the legislative and municipal elections, 
which filled the vacant seats of 101 of 110 parliamentarians and 2,094 
local government officials.  CEP incompetence marked the period 
preceding the Parliamentary elections, and widespread logistical 
problems, poor administration of the voting and counting process, and 
isolated cases of violence and intimidation marred the first round, 
resulting in anger and an eventual boycott of the second round by most 
opposition political parties.  However, most international observers 
called the election a significant step forward, and agreed that the 
serious flaws which existed had not altered the election's outcome.  
After a major change of CEP leadership, it was able to correct many 
irregularities before holding runoffs and restaging about 20 percent of 
the first round contests.  It also agreed to reimburse a portion of the 
candidates' registration fees and campaign expenses, although this in 
fact never occurred. 
 
As the date for the presidential election neared, many of President 
Aristide's supporters urged him to postpone the election for 3 years to 
make up for the period he was in exile.  Ambiguity over this issue 
clouded the process through election day.  The December 17 election, in 
which 14 candidates competed, was deemed by international electoral 
observers to be free, fair, and peaceful, with the CEP showing further 
marked improvement in the administration of the election.  Turnout for 
the election nationwide was 28 percent.  Rene Preval of the Lavalas 
platform won an absolute majority and was inaugurated as President on 
the constitutionally mandated date of February 7, 1996. 
 
There are no de jure impediments to women's participation in politics or 
government.  The generally lower status of women, however, limits their 
role in these fields.  Of the 83 members in the Chamber of Deputies, 
only 3 are women, and there are no women in the 27-member Senate.  
President Aristide named several women to prominent positions in his 
Government including a foreign minister (who was later elevated to prime 
minister), a finance minister, and the head of the Presidential 
Commission of Truth and Justice and has relied on female advisors on his 
palace staff. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
About a dozen local human rights groups exist in Haiti.  Most have 
continued to monitor conditions in the country, with particular emphasis 
on the activities of former members of the armed forces, attaches, 
section chiefs, and members of the notorious paramilitary group FRAPH.  
Some have changed their focus, at least in part, to issues of justice 
and civic education, as the numbers of violations decreased drastically 
with the return of the constitutionally elected Government. 
 
Many of the local groups worked with the Presidential Commission 
of Truth and Justice formally established in late March.  The Commission  
had a 9-month mandate to take complaints and investigate the human 
rights tragedy of 1991-94 in order to determine what kinds of abuses 
occurred and their magnitude.  It gathered testimony throughout the 
country, and accepted written records compiled by human rights groups 
during the 3-year crisis.  The Commission completed the investigatory 
phase of its work in December and was expected to release its final 
report in early 1996. 
 
The International Civilian Mission, operated jointly by the United 
Nations (U.N.) and the Organization of American States (OAS), 
investigated reports of human rights violations, assisted in monitoring 
the elections, and issued periodic reports and press releases.  
Representatives of international human rights organizations visited 
Haiti from time to time.  During the General Assembly of the OAS in 
June, delegates elected the Haitian Minister of Justice to a seat on the 
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, beginning in 1996.  The ICRC 
was active throughout the year, particularly in the area of prison 
renovation and assistance to prisoners.  The authorities allowed the 
ICRC and the ICM free access to prisoners.  The National Coalition for 
Haitian Refugees also maintained a presence. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The 1987 Constitution does not specifically prohibit discrimination on 
the grounds of race, sex, religion, disability, language, or social 
status.  It does, however, provide for freedom of religion and equal 
working conditions regardless of sex, beliefs, or marital status.  There 
is no effective governmental mechanism to administer or enforce these 
provisions. 
 
   Women 
 
Knowledgeable local authorities report that both criminal and domestic 
violence, including rape, occur but are rarely reported or prosecuted.  
Most of this violence goes unreported, and authorities have been 
ineffectual in prosecuting complaints (see Section 1.e.). 
 
Although women are often the breadwinners for poor families, they do not 
enjoy the same economic and social status as men.  In some social 
strata, tradition limits women's roles; peasant women, for example, 
remain largely in the traditional occupations of farming, marketing, and 
domestic tasks.  Poorer families sometimes ration education money to pay 
school fees for male children only.  Nonetheless, women have occupied 
prominent positions in both the public and private sectors in recent 
years. 
 
   Children 
 
The Parliament ratified, at the end of December 1994, the International 
Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the President signed the bill 
2 weeks later.  The Government expressed public concern over the plight 
of children and welcomed international assistance for them.  It did not 
have the resources, however, to implement effective mechanisms for their 
protection. 
 
Rural families continued to send young children to serve as unpaid 
domestic labor for more affluent city dwellers.  The use of children in 
this manner is not limited to the wealthy class; middle and lower class 
families also follow the practice, called "restavek".  The Government 
has not enacted any legislation to curb this abuse.  A 1991 U.N. study 
cited the restavek children as an example of slavery practiced in the 
20th century.  The Government does not compile official statistics, but 
observers estimate that--due to greater internal displacement during the 
period of illegal military rule--the number of restaveks now far exceeds 
the 109,000 reported by the U.N. in 1991.  The Ministry of Social 
Affairs believes that as many as 20 percent of restaveks are mistreated.  
Employers compel the children to work long hours, provide them with 
little nourishment, and frequently beat and sexually abuse them. 
 
Port-au-Prince's large population of street children includes runaway 
restaveks, as well as children orphaned or separated from their 
families.  The abysmal state of the economy only worsens the plight of 
such children, whom society holds in little regard.  Local human rights 
groups do not view the plight of restavek children as a priority and do 
not report on abuses of children or actively seek to improve their 
situation.  The Government's efforts to deal with restaveks have 
centered on monitoring some of the children working as domestics and 
intervening to move them to other homes if they are being mistreated.  
The Government does not take any action against abusive employers. 
 
   People With Disabilities 
 
The Constitution provides that disabled persons shall have the means to 
assure their autonomy, education, and independence.  Despite the 
constitutional provision for means of autonomy for the disabled, there 
is no enacting legislation mandating provision of access for people with 
disabilities.  There is no overt ill-treatment of people with 
disabilities, but given the desperate poverty in which the vast majority 
of Haitians live, those with disabilities face a particularly harsh 
existence. 
 
   National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 
 
Some 99 percent of Haitians are descendants, in whole or in part, of 
African slaves who won their war of independence from France in 1804.  
The remaining population is of European, Middle Eastern, North American, 
or Latin American origin.  The law makes no distinctions based on race.  
There are longstanding social and political animosities among Haitians, 
however, often tied to cultural identification and skin color, and 
issues of class, in this starkly inegalitarian society.  Some of these 
animosities date back to before Haiti's revolutionary period. 
 
There are two official languages:  Creole, which is spoken by virtually 
all Haitians, and French, which is spoken by about 20 percent of the 
population.  The inability to read, write, and speak French, or read and 
write Creole, has long limited the political and economic opportunities 
available to the majority of the population.  In the past, the country's 
French-speaking elite effectively used language requirements as an 
additional barrier to the advancement of the country's Creole-speaking 
majority.  However, Creole use in political discourse increased 
dramatically in 1995. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
The Constitution and the Labor Code provide for the right of association 
and provide workers, including those in the public sector, the right to 
form and join unions without prior government authorization.  Although 
union activities are protected, the law prohibits a closed shop.  The 
law requires a union, which must have a minimum of 10 members, to 
register with the Ministry of Social Affairs within 60 days of its 
establishment.  Union membership is estimated at 5 percent of the total 
labor force.  There are six principal labor federations, each of which 
maintains some fraternal relations with various international labor 
organizations. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
The Labor Code protects trade union organizing activities and stipulates 
fines for those who interfere with this right.  After years of having 
their activities curtailed by the authorities, the unions are now free 
in fact as well as in law to pursue their goals.  Nonetheless, the high 
unemployment rate has had a profoundly damaging impact on union 
activities.  In addition, militant union activity between 1987 and 1991 
led to the closure of some industrial firms, making many factory workers 
antiunion.  Organized labor activity is generally concentrated in the 
Port-au-Prince area, primarily in the assembly sector, and in state 
enterprises.  Observers estimate that only 2 to 3 percent of the 
industrial labor force is unionized.  Many union activists militantly 
oppose privatization of state enterprises, fearing the effect on 
employment and union membership. 
 
Collective bargaining, which has never been widespread, was nonexistent 
in 1995.  Employers generally set wages unilaterally. 
 
There are no export processing zones.  Prior to 1991 and the imposition 
of the OAS trade embargo, Haiti did have a sizable export-oriented 
assembly sector.  The Labor Code does not distinguish between industries 
producing for the local market and those producing for export.  Many 
assembly sector companies were the focus of developmental efforts; they 
received greater outside scrutiny and were consequently somewhat more 
generous with benefits and wages.  Employment in the export assembly 
sector, however, declined from almost 35,000 jobs in September 1991 to 
fewer than 1,000 in September 1994, before rebounding in the subsequent 
12 months to about 10,000.  As the assembly sector contracted, unions 
that were particularly strong in this sector declined accordingly. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
The Labor Code prohibits forced or compulsory labor, but enforcement of 
these provisions is practically nonexistent.  Children continued to be 
subjected to forced domestic labor (see Section 5). 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The minimum employment age for minors in all sectors is 15 years.  
Fierce adult competition for jobs ensures that child labor is not a 
factor in the industrial sector.  Children under age 15 commonly work at 
odd jobs in both rural and urban settings to supplement family income.  
Enforcement of child labor laws is the responsibility of the Ministry of 
Social Affairs, but the International Labor Organization has criticized 
the Ministry's enforcement as inadequate. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
President Aristide raised the minimum daily wage, which applies to 
industrial, commercial, and agricultural workers, from $1.00 (15 
gourdes) to $2.40 (36 gourdes) effective June 1.  While sufficient to 
support a single worker, the minimum wage cannot adequately support 
additional family members.  Although they are considerably better off 
than the rest of the population, most minimum wage earners live in slum 
conditions.  In addition the majority of Haitians work in subsistence 
agriculture where minimum wage legislation does not apply. 
 
The Labor Code governs individual employment contracts.  The Code sets 
the normal workday at 8 hours and the workweek at 48 hours with 24 hours 
of rest on Sunday.  It also establishes minimum health and safety 
regulations.  The industrial sector, which is concentrated in the Port-
au-Prince area and more accessible to outside scrutiny, observes these 
laws and regulations in practice.  However, the Ministry of Social 
Affairs has inadequate resources to enforce work hours and Labor Code 
provisions on health and safety.  With more than 50 percent of the 
population unemployed, workers are not able to exercise the right to 
remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardy to 
continued employment. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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